The Story Of The Sterile Food Tree
The telephone pole that captures my attention nursed no life-long
ambition to telecommunications greatness. It was once a Douglas
fir towering nearly 80 feet above the forest floor. Its trunk
sways gently as the winds pass over its mountainside. Its great
arms, clothed with successive layers of green foliage, shade the
Yet one day the sound of a bulldozer disturbs its mountain
fastness. The whine of chainsaws sends a chill through the trees,
and they fall one by one, fodder for the mill downstream. Rrrrrr.
Chainsaws lop off each limb that protrudes, and mighty jaws lift
the giant amputee on board a truck headed for the mill.
Inside the sound is deafening. The debarker whines and bucks as it
slices through branch stubs and reduces them to submissive knots.
Layer after layer of bark and outer wood are peeled back until the
trunk is naked and smooth. Its base is plunged into a vat of
burning creosote and preservative forced into its pores with
Violence now complete, the new telephone pole is stacked with
brother poles on yet another truck. And one day he feels himself
drop to the side of the road. A crane stretches his top to the sky
and lowers his feet into a deep hole. The pole is now pierced by
climbing spikes and crossbeams, connectors and insulators, then
strung with humming high voltage lines. Phone conversations and TV
shows pass under his artificial limbs, but he does not hear them.
For the most part, he stands in stillness and ponders his fate. An
occasional car whishes by, a hawk rests upon his head for a few
moments waiting for rodents to stir in the field below. But mostly
he stands stoic and sterile -- never to grow again, never to bear
cones, never to see young ones grow up between his toes. All he
can look forward to are the cracks and fissures that come with
dryness and age. He will feel the water of snow storms melt and
trickle down those cracks into to his feet. It is there,
underground, that he will eventually rot and decay 30 to 40 years
hence. When he can, the pole lives in the fragrant memories of his
past, not in the stark hopelessness of his present.
My life hasn't exactly gone as I had planned either. But I realize
that the telephone pole silhouetted against the sky has found a
new meaning to his life that he had no reason to expect.
Birds flutter near his top. Now, one of them inches down the pole
and suddenly inflicts a new violence upon him. Bang, bang, bang.
The woodpecker drives his sharp bill deeper and deeper into the
pole's fibrous tissues. Bang, bang, bang. The hole is deep enough
now. Peck, peck, peck. The bird splinters the sides of the hole to
widen it. It flies away momentarily, but now returns with
something in its beak. It jams an acorn into the new hole until it
is firmly wedged. And now the bird and his friends begin again.
Bang, bang, bang. Peck, peck, peck.
As I look carefully, I can see that this particular telephone pole
has been a favorite of generations of Acorn Woodpeckers. Every
deep crack, every widening crevice is jammed with hundreds of
acorns from the Live Oak tree across the road. Every hole whittled
out in years gone by is restuffed with an acorn against the coming
winter. I try to count them, but soon give up. Their number is
beyond hundreds and must be more than a thousand -- enough to feed
an entire colony of woodpeckers the whole winter long. They will
not starve, for their food tree -- their sterile food tree friend
-- sustains them. The childless fir will live on in the
woodpeckers and their hatchlings.
And as I see the pole surrounded by its woodpeckers, bearing a
harvest not its own for a family not its own, I sense it has grown
more philosophical, more thankful with age. Few trees aspire to be
telephone poles, you know, but for many that is their destiny.
Often we can feel only pain and loss. We suffer. We hurt. We feel
sorry for ourselves. But sometimes, if we can grasp it, God is
creating for us a new and wonderful life through that which has
died. Who would think that an aging pole could be thankful for a
colony of woodpeckers? Who indeed?
[ Dr. Ralph F. Wilson © 2001 (firstname.lastname@example.org) -- from 'Tidbits Devotional' ]
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